Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

The Martyrdom of Saint Mark

Folio 19v

The Acts of the Apostles tell of a John Mark, a disciple of Paul and Peter, who is traditionally identified as the author of the Gospel of Saint Mark. He journeyed with Paul and Barnabas on their first mission (Acts XII-XIII) and later was with Paul in Rome (Colossians IV: 10), where he probably wrote his Gospel.
According to The Golden Legend of Jacopo da Voragine, Peter asked Mark to go to Alexandria to spread the word of God. While Mark was celebrating Easter service, heathens slipped a noose around his neck, screaming, "Let us drag this cowherd to the garbage heap."
He was dragged through the streets of the town to prison, where Christ appeared to comfort him, saying, "Peace be with you, Mark, my evangelist! "
The Limbourgs have represented the suffering and martyrdom of Mark at the head of an extract from his Gospel relating the apparition of the Resurrected Christ to His disciples.
The Negro who has pushed the vestmented saint from the altar at which he was officiating, tightens the noose; the movements of both tormenter and tormented, for example, Mark's right hand, have been rendered with great naturalism. Behind them another pagan raises a club to strike Mark, while the deacon in the church, horrified by the scene, appears to try to save the chalice.
A crowd has gathered in the street, and people lean out of their windows to see what is happening.
The architectural setting resembles that in the Hours of the Passion (folios 142v - 147r). On the right, we see the interior of the church and the altar, the walls, decorated with pilasters, ribs, and lozenges, are painted in the grayish-green frequently used by the Limbourgs for interiors. On the left, tall narrow houses of various colors line a street and recede beyond the church in linear perspective.
As in the miniature of Saint John on Patmos (folio 17r), several lines of the Evangelist's text appear beneath the scene, decorated with two capital letters from which foliage extends into the borders.
The simple details of two violets and leaves, painted with extraordinary delicacy and realism, reveal the consummate skill of the Limbourgs.

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